After the Romans

When the legions left for good in AD410, the Romano Britons were essentially left to get on with life as best they could without the protection of the might of the Mediterranean empire.

The fort at Netherby Hall was occupied by various chieftains over the coming years and may have been visited by the individual, or at least the character who inspired him, who was to become a household name today, King Arthur.

A growing number of people are challenging the Arthurian tales as written down by Geoffrey of Monmouth, on commission for English nobility, who placed all the action in the south west of England.

The original tales come from the old Welsh annals. At the time of writing the Welsh kingdom was not where Wales is today. It stretched from southern Cumbria to the River Clyde and Dumbarton Rock.

Several books have now been written suggesting Arthur was a Romano British chieftain and placing his battles around the Border. Netherby Hall of course is in Arthuret parish, the name suggesting it had associations with Arthur.

So perhaps it is possible that the man of legends once walked the ground where the house and gardens now stand.

Little exists in the records of this part of Cumbria for several hundred years but by the 1400s Netherby had taken the form of a solid Border peel tower, probably built from the ruins of the old Roman Fort.

And that is understandable given the estate lies alongside the Debateable Lands, an area roughly ten miles long by six wide stretching inland from the Solway which belonged to neither Scotland nor England. It was a hotbed for the roughest of Border Reivers for many, many decades.

Netherby would undoubtedly have fallen victim to Reiver Raids from both sides of the Border.

But by the late 1500s Netherby was owned by the Graham family, in a partnership that was to last for some 400 years. And during that time the house and estate prospered.

The first development of the house and gardens probably did not take place until the early 1600s. It was only then that the life of the Reivers was brought to a pretty abrupt end by King James VI when he ascended the English throne.

Certainly Nikolaus Pevsner in his book “Buildings of England Cumberland and Westmorland” published in 1967, identified 17th century paneling in the hall and dining room containing “many small religious scenes” along with barley sugar columns said to have come from a Belgian abbey.

The Graham family were responsible for extensive development of the house and gardens.

Pevsner noted that Dr Robert Graham came into possession in 1757 and from his time there was one room with an “excellent plaster ceiling”, one rounded room with two niches and one room with wall plasters.

The other rooms were mostly Victorian, especially the magnificent staircase.

He described the house as mainly “baronial with some Jacobean touches and the last thing one would expect is the real pele tower hiding behind a seemingly Victorian tower with its comical knight in a niche”.

He dated many of the features, including three magnificent bay windows, from the mid 18th century with the facade from one hundred years later.